Red Line shuttle moves closer to becoming reality

By Anthony Serritella

A proposed shuttle service from the Reynolds Club to the Red Line became a more viable reality after its recent approval by the University Office of Risk Management and the completion of a new round of evaluations.

Joe Anzalone, Student Government Transportation Committee (SCTC) chair, first presented a proposal for a Red Line shuttle to the Transportation Efficiency Workgroup (TEW) last December. TEW is composed of representatives from the CTA, the Provost’s office, Alderman’s office, Student Government, Inter-house council, and a private bus provider.

Although TEW and the University administration found the proposal to be intelligently presented and possibly useful, TEW requested a stronger argument proving that the #55 service was unreliable for students. They were concerned that a Red Line shuttle could cause divisiveness between the University community and the surrounding neighborhoods.

The possible cost of the Red Line shuttle also drew concern from several TEW representatives.

A number of key developments in recent months, however, have fueled the proposal. TEW met on January 30 to again review the shuttle situation, and growing support has caused officials to more thoroughly flesh out the proposal. “New suggestions were made that would make the shuttle more practical and efficient,” Anzalone said.

These suggestions included synchronizing the Red Line’s schedule with that of the shuttle. “The CTA and Laidlaw representatives offered great advice that would further the usefulness of the proposed shuttle,” Anzalone said.

Yet TEW’s response to the proposal was not entirely optimistic. Representatives still believed that the University had yet to assess the risk of a Red Line shuttle and some officials said that the SGTC did not offer a specific enough structure for the physical operations of the shuttle.

President of S.G. Bo Shan and Anzalone have since gone to great lengths to resolve these issues. The two met with Glenn Klinksiesk, the director of risk management for the University, and he approved the Red Line shuttle, likening it to the University’s Late Night Van Service.

Although this approval does not officially make the shuttle a reality, it improves the project’s chances. “Mr. Klinksiek offered great advice, and provided Bo and myself with confidence that the proposal was definitely a viable option as a safe and efficient alternative to the #55,” Anzalone said.

On February 20, the TEW met again to discuss the infrastructure of the Red Line Shuttle proposal and to review Klinksiek’s comments. The workshop reached the conclusion that an independent source would be the best option for the shuttle’s provider.

Shan and Anzalone are currently evaluating various providers to reach a solid estimate for the cost of the shuttle, and to find the most reliable service.

“Upon preliminary cost assessments, annual costs through a transportation provider would not be much higher than the original Red Line shuttle proposal,” Anzalone said.

The SGTC also met on February 20, deciding that the committee would provide a great deal of the required manpower once the infrastructure of the proposal was in place. If the shuttle proposal is put into effect, these suggestions will be implemented in a pilot program.

Shan said that the shuttle has gained generous support from many different areas of the University community. “I’m excited by the overwhelming support we’ve received for the proposal,” he said. “We want to provide a very low-cost, very specifically-targeted solution for students while remaining sensitive to the Hyde Park community.”

Other than the Red Line shuttle proposal, the SGTC is also examining a number of ways to better tailor transportation to the needs of the University community.

Other proposals include new bus stops for the #172 and the Shoreland express bus at the Ratner Center, as well as proposals to alter the service of the #173 and increase its frequency from every hour to every half-hour.

According to Anzalone, these changes are merely in the “collecting-ideas stage,” and will not be implemented in the near future.